1.5 stars rounded up because I'm feeling generous.
This is just barely science fiction (you could blink and basically miss the comet itself, contradict1.5 stars rounded up because I'm feeling generous.
This is just barely science fiction (you could blink and basically miss the comet itself, contradictory to the implications of the title), although I didn't have a shelf for "preachy socialist claptrap" so I had to stick this book somewhere. The titular comet is merely a vehicle for Wells to rant endlessly about the evils of capitalist modern society and how abolishing the ownership of private property will solve everything. EVERYTHING. The comet's gas trail somehow changes nitrogen to some other gas (?) that makes people nobler, wiser, happier (??) and initiates worldwide reform literally overnight (???). The comet gas makes people other than human, in other words. Very little of human nature remains, although we're expected to believe that the comet gas just "cleared away" the trammels of old ways of thinking to enable people to be as they always were underneath. One wonders if Wells has ever actually met another human being; the naivete levels in this book astound. The book plays out the idea of the abolishment of individual ownership to a degree I wouldn't have expected but which is obvious in retrospect: if nothing is yours, that would extend to romantic relationships as well, so your spouse isn't really yours, and anything goes. But it's okay because now everyone lives in communal utopias unfettered by such droll, inconsequential matters of respectability. The frame narrative around the story is nonsensical as well, but that was the least of my complaints after struggling through the whole book.
The only reason this isn't completely demoted to one star is because Wells' language is beautiful in parts (when he's not sermonizing), and his intelligence isn't completely dampened by all of the dull preaching....more
I enjoyed this book far more than I expected, and found myself devouring it late at night at a frightful pace. I've not had great success with books bI enjoyed this book far more than I expected, and found myself devouring it late at night at a frightful pace. I've not had great success with books by two authors in the past (they always seem to be plagued by inconsistent characters and general sloppiness), so I assumed three authors would be even worse. Pleasantly, in this case, not so! The story's premise is basically Beowulf in space, which sounded deliciously pulpy to me. It ended up being a more sophisticated and nuanced book than I anticipated. The characters are all ridiculously flawed people and quite unlikeable, but by the end I found myself surprisingly attached in spite of it. Still not brilliant literature, and the characters' obsession with sex (while understandable in the context of a colony trying to perpetuate itself in the face of low numbers) felt downright juvenile, but I'd give it up to a 3.5-star rating....more
I'm going to review the first three books of Robot City here, since my complaints are the same for all of them.
I inherited the first three books of thI'm going to review the first three books of Robot City here, since my complaints are the same for all of them.
I inherited the first three books of the series when I got married, and both my husband and I had assumed that these were actually by Isaac Asimov. NOT SO. Asimov writes the intros, and the stories are very, very loosely set in his universe, but that's it. I was still prepared to enjoy the series...until I realized the quality was terrible.
In all fairness to the authors, a lot of the flaws may well be due to the fact that each author wrote a single book in a sprawling, interminably long story. I can only imagine the frustration in writing a chunk of story that someone else started and a third someone else would finish. The result is some of the dullest, jarring scifi I've read. The characters are, without exception, unlikable, mercurial, and wildly unpredictable and unnatural in their reactions. I never really did get a handle on them. To say the plot moved at a snail's pace is unfair to the speedier varieties of snails out there. Subplots are ignored for whole books at a time (again, understandable when books are written by different authors.) The mysteries put forward aren't particularly interesting, and I had no desire to read past the three books we already owned.
I did read the synopses for the remaining four books--yes, that's right, they managed to spin this threadbare little story out into seven books in total--and was very glad I hadn't bothered to read the rest.
This wouldn't even have warranted two stars if not for the robots themselves, who are by far and away the most interesting characters in the book, which really isn't saying much. ...more
This book is touted as a scifi classic, and I can see why. Three stars feels a little unfair (especially considering what else I've given three starsThis book is touted as a scifi classic, and I can see why. Three stars feels a little unfair (especially considering what else I've given three stars lately), but I couldn't get past a few issues, so we'll call it 3.5.
Heinlein did many things brilliantly well. The premise was fascinating--the lunar colony revolts against Earth, using the skills of a magnificent, sentient, oddly endearing computer with a penchant for Sherlock Holmes stories. This book is also a piece of biting, indicting satire, using the lunar society as a foil for Earth's. Even the writing style, borrowing words and grammatical structure from Russian, is novel and fascinating. The depiction of the revolution itself takes inspiration from the American and Russian revolutions, among others--history lovers will enjoy trying to unravel which strategies came from which time period. And the end of the book is genuinely touching.
So why the judgmental star rating? In part because of the hype, which it cannot quite live up to. After a promising beginning, the book lags terribly in the middle, and while Heinlein valiantly tries to make the political situation interesting, the reader does ultimately have to wade through a LOT of dry political conversation. He pulls it around in the end, but I have a lot of readers threw up their hands and quit before getting there.
The other issue is that the book has not aged well in many respects. I understand that this was written before we had even BEEN to the moon, so obviously Heinlein couldn't have predicted what was going to occur afterwards, but that was the least problematic part of the book being so dated.
Technology seemed surprisingly unimaginative, though maybe that's unfair, given the time of the book's writing before computers' capabilities were imaginable. But for a revolution run by computer, information exchange was handled very slowly, and all via telephone.
Heinlein is frequently sexist in an oblivious way in his other books, but his sexism in this book was particularly grating. This is the future, but women's career opportunities include beauticians, wombs for rent, or secretaries. The only female main character contributes almost nothing after getting the male characters involved in the revolution by virtue of her beauty. The sexism is so casual and assumed--that's what made me angry. It almost seemed lazy. Every other aspect of society was moved forward in some way and futurified--religion, politics, economics, family structure--except for the female gender, which is so static and backward as to seem unreal. Also, nicknaming the main character Rapist as a joke? Not cool. This was the issue that almost made me stop reading and that took a whole star off the rating, just because it killed so much of the book in terms of enjoyability.
Oh, Heinlein. When you're good, you're very very good, and when you're bad, you're horrid. This novel was a solid combo of the two. Fun "Prince and thOh, Heinlein. When you're good, you're very very good, and when you're bad, you're horrid. This novel was a solid combo of the two. Fun "Prince and the Pauper in space" premise, nicely developed main character, abysmal secondary characters. As usual, female characters' only jobs are a. set dressing and b. secretaries. The second is even more insulting given that auto-secretaries exist in this world and do the job better. Still an enjoyable piece of light scifi, if you don't look too closely....more
A coworker recommended this, saying it was the best scifi story he'd never heard of. After reading it, I was likewise surprised that that this isn't rA coworker recommended this, saying it was the best scifi story he'd never heard of. After reading it, I was likewise surprised that that this isn't ranked more frequently among scifi classics. The story is (very loosely) based on The Count of Monte Cristo, and it's good. Really good. Also really, really dark, so be aware of that going in if it matters to you. The hero is fascinating but predominantly amoral, and the world in which he lives is brutal. The story spends its creative ideas extravagantly and gives the impression there's so much more where that came from that it can afford to be wasteful. I love that feeling, and it covers a multitude of plot sins. I also savored the literary allusions. Aside from the instantly recognizable references to Blake's "Tyger, Tyger," I found much of it to be a dark parallel to Gulliver's Travels (I'm sure that's where the protagonist's name came from). ...more
Eh, pretty uninspiring. Confusing in parts, and the art was odd--one character's face consistently looked malformed, which I'm pretty sure wasn't whatEh, pretty uninspiring. Confusing in parts, and the art was odd--one character's face consistently looked malformed, which I'm pretty sure wasn't what they were going for. There were one or two redeeming moments that bumped it up to two stars....more
Reading Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. (originally published under the penname Don A. Stuart) was a phenomenal experience. This story is claReading Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. (originally published under the penname Don A. Stuart) was a phenomenal experience. This story is classic scifi, written by the man who single-handedly shaped science fiction through the magazines he published. A whole slew of classic scifi writers got their start by selling their short stories to Campbell. Not only was Campbell a good judge of writing, though–the man was an exceptional writer himself. Who Goes There? grabs you by the throat from the very beginning and doesn’t let you go. It’s almost more horror than scifi; Campbell crafts the sense of panic so effectively. If you’re a fan of scifi at all, be sure to check this one out....more